"We could not have retained our position of responsible world leadership nor helped to ensure our dynamic growth and vitality at home if we were not adding Mariner, Ranger, Gemini, Syncom, Telsat, Early Bird, Tiros, ESSA, Nimbus, Lunar Orbiter, Surveyor, Saturn, and others to the Russian Sputnik, Vostok, Voskhod, Cosmos, Zond, Luna, Proton, Molniya and Elektron spacecraft ... I believe it is this total search for perfection and the effects it has had in establishing the NASA system of management, development, and operation that may have the greatest effect on our total technological capacities and our technological power. This factor will change the way our weapons system have been developed and built ..."
- Harold B. Finger
Director, Nuclear Systems and Space Power, NASA / Space Nuclear Systems Division, Atomic Energy Commission, in"Electric Power in Space," from Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol. 30 Issue 2, Series II, Pages 303-319, December, 1967
"The presence of the 'atomic battery' in the satellite is a symbol of a marriage that was bound to occur - between Space and the Atom. We have known for some time that the two were made for each other."
- Glenn Seaborg, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission
Powering Space Exploration: U.S. Space Nuclear Power, Public Perceptions, and Outer Planetary Probes, Roger D. Launius, Smithsonian Institution, 6th International Energy Conversion Engineering Conference (IECEC), July 28-30, 2008, Cleveland, Ohio.
North American Aviation Advertisement, above:
"This is SNAP 10A, the world's first nuclear reactor in space and the newest addition to America's space power from North American Aviation. SNAP 10A is more than 700 miles out in space ... circling the earth every 112 minutes in a 4,000 year obit. During its 43 days of uninterrupted, flawless operation, it produced over 500,000 watt-hours of electricity. SNAP reactor systems can provide power for observation and weather satellites, orbiting laboratories, electrical propulsion in space, and for communicating directly from spacer to ordinary antennas on the ground. The SNAP 10A system was designed and built by North American Aviation / Atomics INternational Division for the Atomic Energy Commission, NAA/Rocketdyne built the Atlas rocket engines that launched it. North American Aviation is a leader in electronics, aviation, life sciences, space flight, atomic energy, rocketry, and basic research.
North American Aviation
Atomics International, Autonetics, Columbus, Los Angeles, Rocketdyne, Science Center, Space & Information Systems"
many former veterans who had survived the Great Depression. Workers brought an ironclad work ethic, unfailing patriotism, a willingness not to ask questions and to abide by the rules of secrecy. They had faith in their employers and government. While the technology at SSFL was proprietary and considered "secret," the mission was not; NAA celebrated advancements in space and nuclear research in advertisements published in popular trade magazines of the time and openly attributed their success to collaboration between their nuclear and rocketry divisions (Atomics International / Rocketdyne).
TheAeroSpace.org celebrates the numerous achievements in science and technology that were made at SSFL by workers whose ingenuity and innovation changed the world. However, the full scope of DOE's operational history at SSFL must be acknowledged. SSFL's history is a fascinating one, and its complete history falls beyond the scope of this web site that was created to bring focus onto Area I, II and III personnel in need of inclusion to EEOICPA legislation.
EEOICPA specifies that compensation and benefits may be available to employees of DOE, its contractors and subcontractors. NAA is an established DOE contractor. The original contract between AEC-DOE and NAA specified NAA's discretionary use of its facilities and resources in the fulfillment of its contractual obligations to the government. Contracts, technical reports, and worker records illustrate AEC/DOE-sponsored projects, facilities, and operations throughout Areas I, II and III and justify the inclusion of these areas as "DOE Facilities" under EEOICPA. Please support EEOICPA's ability to function as Congress intended by recognizing the workers of SSFL Areas I, II and III and the need to include them in this important legislation.
SSFL workers deserve inclusion to EEOICPA in accordance with the law. The community deserves a responsible environmental cleanup based on full disclosure of potential environmental contamination that resulted from site operations in all areas of SSFL. If you would like more information on DOE operations, facilities, proprietary interests and use of radiological materials in Areas I, II and III of SSFL, please contact us.
During the Cold War and Race to Space, thousands of civilian employees at Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) participated in projects crucial to our nation's global leadership in science and technology. It was no accident of geography that the premier divisions of North American Aviation (NAA), Atomics International (the nuclear division) and Rocketdyne (the rocketry division) shared the mountain-top facility nestled among the outcroppings of bedrock and canyons in the Santa Susana Mountains, between Ventura and Los Angeles counties.
Under contract with the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC, the Department of Energy's predecessor agency) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), NAA personnel contributed to what was then considered to be cutting-edge advancements in nuclear and rocketry development. Categorized an "experimental facility" by the government, regulatory standards of the time were relaxed in the spirit of unfettered research, which often involved new, unproven toxic or radioactive materials, experimentation and improvisation. New equipment was tested to failure to determine where improvements were required; often, the very tools necessary to address an unfolding crisis had yet to be invented and workers fabricated them as they were needed. From testing rocket engines destined for the Moon, to developing power-producing nuclear reactors that provided electricity and furthered our understanding of nuclear-space propulsion, NAA personnel perfected cross-platform technology between aerospace and nuclear endeavors. In some cases, DOE's energy research relied expressly on propulsion technology developed by NASA. Recently-discovered contracts between AEC and Department of Defense (DOD) call into question any assertions of separation between AEC, NASA, or military projects at SSFL. AEC's original contract with NAA specified that the company could utilize, at its own discretion, the entirety of its facilities and resources, which included personnel and materials, in the fulfillment of its contractual obligations with AEC. Original facility documents authored by AEC and its contractors detail NAA's use of all areas of SSFL to fulfill its contracts with AEC-DOE, and document DOE's proprietary interests, waste storage, and waste disposal, in all areas.
SSFL workers performed job duties in a hazardous environment. Known for their improvisational skill, ingenuity, and ability to adapt to ever-changing scenarios, personnel often held numerous job titles and performed duties in various areas of the facility. Their rotation into nuclear or non-nuclear areas was not always documented. It is not possible to determine a worker's risk based solely on an official job title or clock-in location. Because of this, basing eligibility criteria to federal worker legislation solely on a worker's ability to prove documented work location, and confusing a "time clock" location with where job duties were actually performed, has resulted in the unfair disqualification of an untold number of EEOICPA claimants that have applied for compensation and benefits. While workers were exposed to radiation and toxic chemicals (sometimes without their knowledge, consent, or documentation), worker records have been lost or destroyed. Recently, compelling evidence in denied EEOICPA claimant case files strongly suggests that workers' records have been strategically omitted or manipulated to both downplay the perception of worker exposures and to obscure eligibility to EEOICPA for all employees of the site.
SSFL's achievements pushed the boundaries of imagination during the Cold War and Race to Space. Technology developed at SSFL changed our understanding of nuclear power and space-nuclear propulsion while shaping the postwar culture of Southern California. SSFL's advancements in science and technology continue to influence our approach to space exploration today; but these achievements came at great personal sacrifice to many workers.
Federal agencies currently implementing worker legislation (EEOICPA), and state regulatory agencies overseeing the site's environmental cleanup claim that AEC-DOE, its predecessors and contractors remained strictly confined within Area IV boundaries throughout SSFL's history of operations. Well-documented DOE-NASA projects, as well as DOE facilities, operations and proprietary interests in Areas I, II and III are ignored in an effort to downplay and diminish the site's operational history that resulted in environmental contamination and worker exposures for decades. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the review of original facility documents, technical reports authored by DOE and its predecessors/contractors, and worker records of denied EEOICPA claimants.
AEC-DOE and NASA share a well-documented history of joint projects. After WWII, the idea of harnessing the atom for peacetime use and building rockets provided jobs in nuclear research and aerospace that guaranteed financial security, opportunity, and prestige to thousands of Southern California's private citizens. The jobs at SSFL paid well, were important during a pivotal political era, and attracted